• Ryan Bernardoni

(Jabari) Bird Law

With the waiving of Abdel Nader the Celtics now have 14 of their full NBA roster spots accounted for. The team still has the Taxpayer MLE available to sign another veteran player but there isn't anyone on the market who would be likely to break into their rotation and so worth signing. More likely, they'll try to hold that until later in the season in case a good player hits the buyout market or they have injury issues that necessitate a stop-gap signing.

The player many C's fans are hoping will be a part of Boston's plans is Jabari Bird, who is in a status that we aren't particularly familiar with as this is the first year where two-way players are hitting the free agent market.

Bird is a restricted free agent but unlike traditional RFA's who have an NBA contract offer extended to them as their qualifying offer, rookies coming off a two-way get another two-way deal as their QO. The Celtics would love for Bird to sign that, but he's shown enough in limited minutes last season and Summer League this year to think he's worth a full NBA roster spot.

Boston have his Non-Bird Rights which allow them to pay Jabari 120% of his salary last season, which is meaningless because he was on a two-way, or 120% of the minimum salary. Those rights allow raises of up to 5% of his first season's salary and can run for as long as four seasons.

A two-way season counts towards NBA service time which means two important things:

  1. Bird's minimum contract is $1,349,383

  2. He would be a restricted free agent again if he hit the market in either of the next two years

We often see non-1st round pick rookies extended a four season deal where the fourth one is a team option so that they can be put into restricted free agency after their third season or kept on at a minimum salary in that year. That becomes the team's sole decision; the player is left with no say in the matter. Semi Ojeleye's contract is a good example of this.

For players coming off a rookie season spent on a two-way deal, it will be interesting to see if teams' prioritize contract length or RFA flexibility. Instead of giving a four season deal it might make more sense to give a three year deal with the final season an option. A contract cannot have multiple option seasons and waiving a non-guaranteed year does not make a player an RFA. Adding a fourth season would guarantee that Bird's contract ends in unrestricted free agency instead of the team's choice to make him restricted.

If the Celtics do want to give over their 15th full NBA spot to Bird instead of holding it open, or signing a different veteran, a logical contract would be something like:

Year 1: $1,619,260 (guaranteed)

Year 2: $1,588,231 (partial or non-guaranteed)

Year 3: $1,645,357 (non-guaranteed team option)

That would be the full amount in Year 1 covered by Non-Bird Rights, which would preserve the entire Taxpayer MLE. Year two could have a 5% salary decrease, but the minimum salary is more than that so the deal drops to the minimum. The final year is also at the minimum and would give the team that option to make him a restricted free agent if he looks like a player who will have serious suitors when his deal ends.

The Celtics are currently over the luxury tax so there could be a desire to hold his deal down to the minimum, but they would still have time to get under the tax if that's a goal and adding $260k to Bird's deal isn't going to make a massive difference in how the math works out.

If a team wants to pry Bird away from the C's, they would likely need to offer him more than that $1,619,260 for this season. Doing so would force Boston to match his offer sheet out of the MLE, and they might not want to do that. A deal like 3/$6M with the first two years fully guaranteed at $2M per year would at least force a decision on the Celtics.

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